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FAMILY

Parental leave: How new agreement could change rules in Denmark

An agreement on so-called “earmarked” parental leave for mothers and fathers could change the way parents of infants plan their time away from work.

Parental leave: How new agreement could change rules in Denmark
Proposed new Danish parental leave rules could enforce equal time off for each parent. Photo by Sandra Seitamaa on Unsplash

A new agreement between the Danish Trade Union Confederation (Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation, FH) and Confederation of Danish Employers (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA) would set parental leave in Denmark at 11 weeks for both the mother and father or second parent.

The set 11 weeks has been termed “earmarked” (øremærket) parental leave because the two parents cannot transfer the leave from one to another, thus enabling one parent to take more than the designated 11 weeks.

Additionally, the mother has a right to four weeks’ pregnancy leave prior to giving birth and both parents can take two weeks’ leave immediately after the birth.

That leaves a remaining earmarked 9 weeks, which can be taken at any time but are tagged to each parent, as are the initial 2 post-birth weeks. If one parent does not use all of their 11 weeks, those weeks lapse.

This represents a significant departure from the model currently in place, which is as follows:

  • Pregnancy leave for the mother from four weeks prior to expected birth date.
  • Maternity leave for mother for 14 weeks following birth.
  • Leave for father or second parent for two weeks following birth (or at any time during first 14 weeks, subject to employer agreement).
  • 32 weeks of paid parental leave which can be shared between the two parents, with an optional further 32 weeks unpaid.

Parental leave (totalling a shared 32 weeks under the current system) can be held concurrently or separately, or a combination of the two, depending on how the parents want to organise their time off, childcare needs and so on.

As such, one parent can take as much as 32 weeks’ parental leave if the other does not take any (or only uses their two weeks’ leave post-birth).

READ ALSO: Parental leave in Denmark: how much time can you take off?

In comments to news wire Ritzau, FH deputy chairperson Majbrit Berlau said the proposed model was “the right balance”.

“We are setting fence posts for equality in Denmark by implementing earmarking so that dad is a bigger part of parenthood in the first part of the baby’s life,” Berlau said.

“We hope that with this agreement we can achieve equality in families when parental leave is being planned while also promoting equality for women in terms of equal pay and career opportunities alike,” she also said.

Parliament is scheduled to negotiate earmarked parental leave during the autumn, with a new directive likely to be implemented on January 1st 2022.

FH and DA are both part of an implementation committee set down by the government to provide input prior to negotiations over new legislation.

READ ALSO: I became a dad at the start of the coronavirus crisis in Denmark. Now my daughter can finally meet her grandparents

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WORKING IN DENMARK

Feriepenge: Denmark’s vacation pay rules explained

If you work for a company in Denmark, your yearly time off is likely to be provided for by the 'feriepenge' accrual system for paid annual leave.

If you work in Denmark, a good understanding of 'feriepenge' (holiday allowance) rules will help you plan time off in the summer and around the calendar.
If you work in Denmark, a good understanding of 'feriepenge' (holiday allowance) rules will help you plan time off in the summer and around the calendar. Photo by Felipe Correia on Unsplash

One of the perks of being a full-time employee in the country, Danish holiday usually adds up to five weeks of vacation annually. There are also nine days of public holidays, which everyone benefits from.

The Danish Holiday Act (Ferieloven) provides the basis for paid holiday through accrued feriepenge (‘vacation money’ or ‘vacation allowance’). This covers most salaried employees, although some people, such as independent consultants or freelancers, are not encompassed.

What is feriepenge?

‘Holiday money’ or feriepenge is a monthly contribution paid out of your salary into a special fund, depending on how much you earn.

You can claim back the money once per year, provided you actually take holiday from work. It is earned at the rate of 2.08 vacation days per month.

If you are employed in Denmark, you will be notified when the money can be paid out (this is in May under normal circumstances) and directed to the borger.dk website, from where you claim it back from national administrator Udbetaling Danmark.

Anyone who is an employee of a company registered in Denmark and who pays Danish taxes is likely to receive holiday pay, as this means you will be covered by the Danish Holiday Act (ferieloven). You are not an employee if, for example, you are self-employed, are a board member on the company for which you work or are unemployed.

How do I save up time off using feriepenge?

The law, which covers the five standard weeks or (normally 25 days) of paid vacation, states that you are entitled to take vacation during the vacation year period. You earn paid vacation throughout a calendar year at the rate of 2.08 days per month.

You earn vacation time in the period September 1st-August 31st. You can then use your vacation in the same year that you earn it and up to December 31st the subsequent year – in other words, over a 16-month period.

These rules also mean that holiday earned during a given month can be used from the very next month, in what is referred to as concurrent holiday (samtidighedsferie).

So when can I take time off using this accrued vacation?

The Danish vacation year is further broken down so that there is a “main holiday period” which starts on May 1st and ends on September 30th. During this time, you are entitled to take three weeks’ consecutive vacation out of your five weeks.

A lot of people take three weeks in a row while others break it up – which is why you often hear Danish people who work full time wishing each other a “good summer holiday” as if it’s the end of the school term.

Outside of the main holiday period, the remaining 10 days of vacation can be taken whenever you like. You can take up to five days together but may also use the days individually.

If your employer wants to decide when you should take any of your vacation days, they have to let you know at least three months in advance for main holiday, or one month in advance for remaining holiday (barring exceptional circumstances, such as an unforeseen change to the company’s operations or if the company closes for the summer shortly after you begin employment).

If you have not earned paid vacation, you still have the right to take unpaid holiday.

Public Holidays

In addition to the vacation days, there are also public holidays. These are bunched up mostly in the early part of the year and around Christmas. However, the period between June and Christmas includes the above-mentioned main annual leave, so there’s not usually long to wait until you can take time off.

Denmark has public holidays on:’

  • New Year’s Day  
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday  
  • Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag)
  • Ascension Day
  • Whit Monday
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

In addition to the usual public holidays, companies can choose to give extra time off, for example on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. There are also differences regarding Labour Day and Constitution Day, depending on where you work, what kind of work you do, or the collective bargaining agreement under which you are employed.

Sometimes you can get a whole day off for these extra holidays, sometimes just a half day. Check with your employer for details.

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